Railroad Special Agent Visits BC
On March 22 Special Agent J.B. Kahle visited a criminal justice class at BC.
March 26, 2012
J.B. Kahle visited BC criminal justice professor Kelly Walls’ Critical Perspectives class March 22 for the first time to give students an insight into his job as an agent.
“This agency was started by William Baldwin as a part of his detective agency before the turn of the 20th century, and is a highly respected and sought after job in law enforcement today,” said Walls. “This is the first time we have had a representative of the agency on campus.”
J.B. Kahle during his presentation to BC's criminal justice class
Kahle has been a special agent for six years. He first began his law enforcement career by working for the Bluefield, W.Va., Police Department.
“Norfolk Southern is the fourth largest railroad system in the United States,” said Kahle.“And they are the third highest paid.”
Norfolk Southern is broken down into three regions: eastern, western, and northern. Those regions are broken down further into nine areas, which include four field offices in Virginia: Manassas, Norfolk, Roanoke, and Bluefield. Most states have one office; Bluefield is unique with two.
The Norfolk Southern Railroad police are equipped with the same law enforcement tools that major police departments have.
“They have 11 K-9 units, three special operations (SWAT) units, and five special investigation units,” said Kahle.
Not only do the railroad and local and state law enforcement have the same crime fighting tools, they have the same abilities.
“In West Virginia, the federal code lets me do anything like a regular police officer,” said Kahle. “Write speeding tickets; arrest you, but only if our railroad is in the area of West Virginia you’re in.”
Just as there are similarities, there are differences.
Norfolk Southern Railroad police provides private security for a company, while local and state police provide safety for the public community. Being privately maintained means one large difference: pay.
“Railroad police are paid more than local and state police,” said Kahle. “A Norfolk Southern railroad 911 dispatcher has a yearly salary of $40,000-$50,000; a local and state police 911 dispatcher has an $8,000 salary.”
Currently, Norfolk Southern has 238 officers employed.
Most police officers deal with murderers, rapists, drug users, and robbers; railroad special agents protect the railroad.
“The Norfolk Southern mission is to provide safety for our customers; we want to look out for our customers,” said Kahle. “My goal is to get the freight from point A to point B.”
Special agents have the duty to protect the railroad from one of its biggest enemies: metal thieves.
“We don’t have train robberies; we have metal theft,” said Kahle.
Metal and copper theft is on the rise because metal and copper scrap can be turned in for money.
“People will jump on top of the trains with cutting tools and cut through the top of the trains and throw the metal and goods to their buddies waiting on the side of the tracks,” said Kahle.
Special agents deal with trespassers as well.
“The railroad is big on trespassers,” said Kahle. “They don’t want anybody walking on their property.”
What if someone were to get drunk and walk on the tracks, Kahle said, and get an arm cut off and sue the railroad for $100,000?
For one man, being drunk on the tracks cost him his life, not his arm.
“A man was drunk by the tracks in Lee County [Virginia],” said Kahle. “He had five Budwisers and was starting another. The conductor on the train saw this man, but by the time he started to wave, the man looked into his eyes as the train cut him apart.”
It’s easy to get run over by a train, said Kahle.
“Some Liberty [University] kids were out watching the stars and didn’t get off the trestle in time and a couple kids got run over,” he said.
Kahle considers his job to be nothing as exciting as other law enforcement jobs.
“I’ll have lunch with the Bluefield Police Department detectives and they’ll talk about murderers and rapists and they’ll ask me what I did and I say I chased some trespassers away,” said Kahle.
Kahle doesn’t hold a normal 9-5 job; he works an 8-4, Monday through Friday shift with weekends off.
“Today, I’ll work 16 hours in Charleston [West Virginia],” said Kahle. “I might get a call three hours away; it’s the luck of the draw. They can send us anywhere they want. There’s a federal law that lets us jump state lines.”
During Kahle’s presentation, he gave Walls’ class a break to ask questions. Criminal justice major Courtney Dutton asked an interesting question.
“Are there a lot of women agents?”
To which, Kahle had a surprising answer.
“Historically, the railroad is a man’s world,” said Kahle. “Women have a very, very good chance of getting hired. The railroad is very diverse with three women special agents--a female officer applies, they really get looked at because there’s not that many.”
Not only is the railroad diverse; it’s respected, he said.
“People really respect us,” said Kahle. “People sass state troopers, but I’ve been in places where I get respect because people think that I’ll come burn their house down, but that’s the kind of reputation we have in the railroads.”
After Kahle’s presentation, two BC students became interested in working for the railroad.
“I’m looking into private investigations,” said criminal justice major Shawn Stanley. “So, it’s pretty interesting.”
BC student Angel Hackney was planning on attending law school but is now considering a much different path.
“It will be a much better opportunity than law school,” said Hackney.
If you’re interested in applying for a job or would like more information about the Norfolk Southern railroad police or the Norfolk Southern railroad system, visit www.nscorp.com.
“Railroad careers are good careers,” said Kahle. “We are very necessary for the railroad to have.”